AskDefine | Define knots

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Plural of knot


  1. Third-person singular simple present of to knot.

Extensive Definition

Knot is a unit of speed, equal to one nautical mile per hour.
The abbreviation preferred by maritime authorities in the USA, and Canada , as well as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures is kn. The abbreviation kt is also in widespread use, sometimes with kts for the plural (knots). It is a non-SI unit accepted for use with the SI. The international definition was adopted by the UK in 1970 which previously used the UK or Admiralty nautical mile of 1853.184 m. This is the definition used in most, if not all, modern circumstances. A common error that should be avoided is to use the term 'knot' to refer to the nautical mile itself.
The speed of a vessel relative to the fluid in which it travels is usually measured in knots. This may be referred to as 'boat speed', 'vessel speed' and, for aircraft, 'air speed'. For consistency in navigation, the speed of relevant fluids, such as tidal stream, river current and wind speed, is also usually specified in knots. Knots are then also used to describe the actual speed of a vessel over the ground (SOG) and for its rate of progress toward a distant point ('velocity made good' or VMG).


Until the mid-19th century vessel speed at sea was measured using a chip log. This consisted of a wooden panel, weighted on one edge to float upright and thus have substantial water resistance, attached by line to a reel. The chip log was "cast" over the stern of the moving vessel and the line allowed to pay out. Knots placed at a distance of 47 feetinches (14.4018 m) passed through a sailor's fingers, while another sailor used a 30 second sandglass (28 second sandglass is the current accepted timing) to time the operation. The knot count would be reported and used in the sailing master's dead reckoning and navigation. This method gives a value for the knot of 20.25 in/s, or 1.85166 km·h−1. The difference from the modern definition is less than 0.02%.

Modern use

Although the unit "knots" does not fit within the primary SI system, its retention for nautical and aviation use is important for navigational reasons, since the length of a nautical mile is almost identical to a minute of latitude. As a result, distance in nautical miles on a navigational chart can easily be measured by using dividers and the latitude indicators on the side of the chart.
Nautical speed is sometimes erroneously expressed as "knots per hour" which would actually be a measure of acceleration, as in "nautical miles per hour per hour."

Aeronautical terms

Prior to 1969, airworthiness standards for civil aircraft in the USA Federal Aviation Regulations specified that distances were to be in statute miles, and speeds in miles per hour. In 1969 these standards were progressively amended to specify that distances were to be in nautical miles, and speeds in knots.
The following abbreviations are used to distinguish between various measurements of airspeed.

External links

See also


  • Kemp, Peter (editor). The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Oxford university Press, 1976. ISBN 0-19-282084-2
knots in Arabic: عقدة (وحدة سرعة)
knots in Asturian: Nuedu (unidá)
knots in Bulgarian: Възел (скорост)
knots in Catalan: Nus (unitat)
knots in Czech: Uzel (jednotka)
knots in Danish: Knob (skibsterminologi)
knots in German: Knoten (Geschwindigkeit)
knots in Estonian: Sõlm (kiirusühik)
knots in Modern Greek (1453-): Κόμβος
knots in Spanish: Nudo (unidad)
knots in Esperanto: Knoto
knots in French: Nœud (unité)
knots in Korean: 노트 (속력)
knots in Croatian: Čvor
knots in Indonesian: Knot (kecepatan)
knots in Icelandic: Hnútur
knots in Italian: Nodo (unità di misura)
knots in Hebrew: קשר (יחידת מידה)
knots in Luxembourgish: Knuet (Nautik)
knots in Lithuanian: Mazgas
knots in Hungarian: Csomó (mértékegység)
knots in Dutch: Knoop (zeevaart)
knots in Japanese: ノット
knots in Norwegian: Knop (mål)
knots in Polish: Węzeł (jednostka prędkości)
knots in Portuguese: Nó (unidade)
knots in Romanian: Nod (unitate de măsură)
knots in Russian: Узел (единица измерения)
knots in Slovak: Námorný uzol
knots in Slovenian: Vozel (enota)
knots in Serbian: Чвор (брзина)
knots in Serbo-Croatian: Čv
knots in Finnish: Solmu (nopeusyksikkö)
knots in Swedish: Knop (enhet)
knots in Thai: นอต
knots in Turkish: Knot
knots in Ukrainian: Вузол (одиниця швидкості)
knots in Chinese: 節
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